Juan Martin del Potro waited a long time to win his first Masters title, but it may have been well worth. The 29-year-old outlasted rival Roger Federer in a 3-set exhilarating epic to win the Indian Wells title 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-6(2) Sunday.
“It’s difficult to describe in words,” said Del Potro after the 2-hour, 42-minute win. “It’s like a dream. I’ve been working hard to get this, and I did it after all my problems, all my surgeries. I can’t believe I’m here and winning a Masters 1000, beating Roger. It’s amazing.”
Del Potro, who also beat Federer at the US Open last year and in his incredible 2009 run in New York, had the confidence to stop Federer’s 17-match win streak to start the season. But could he do it? He could.
Del Potro’s much-maligned backhand held up early and may have surprised Federer a little by its force and consistency. And of course Del Potro had the lethal forehand and the booming serving working in full flight.
Federer, meanwhile, was spraying errors and it cost him early in his third serve game as Del Potro gained the break at love.
The Argentine rode out his serve to take the first.
Federer avoided early peril at the start of the second, digging out of a 15-40 hole.
Later, the Swiss had his first chances and set points on the Del Potro serve at 4-5, but was denied.
In a very, very tense breaker, which saw both players irate at chair umpire Fergus Murphy, Federer couldn’t close out a 6-3 lead including tossing in a double fault on set point at 6-5. But down match point 7-8, Federer took the last three to force the decider.
Things were even early, with both players slugging it out. Del Potro saved got out of a 0-30 deficit at 2-all. Then, looking wary, finally cracked at 4-4.
5-4, Federer would serve for the title. Following an ace, it was 40-15, it looked done. It wasn’t. In the longest game of the match, del Potro saved three championship points to escape and live on.
A tiebreaker was forced and once again Federer’s served let him down. The Swiss inexplicably gave up two double faults and Del Potro took it 7-1.
“It was an unbelievable match in all the ways. I mean, we played a great level of tennis. The people were excited on every single point,” del Potro said. “Roger and me were nervous during the whole match, and we felt that on court.
“Unfortunately I couldn’t stay calm in the tiebreak of the second set, but then the calms come again in the end of the match and I played good in the tiebreak.”
The win was del Potro’s 7th against Federer (7-18) and his first in a Masters event (1-7). It was also his 22nd career title and after three losses in Masters final, his maiden title at this level. And in winning is biggest title since the US Open over eight years ago, it signals the Argentine is finally back.
Federer, who was seeking a record sixth Indian Wells title, wouldn’t get into what specifically was irritating him so much on court, but he did say he wasn’t pleased with his serve.
“I lost my serve a little bit, and then he was clean and I wasn’t. And then it goes very quickly in the breaker,” Federer said. “As close as it can be sometimes when you’re not feeling it or momentum has shifted, it’s just crazy how it can go the other way. But I had already missed my opportunities then, but I still, standing at the trophy ceremony, I think I would like to play that tie-break again, because I don’t know what the hell happened. But it’s OK. It happens sometimes.”
Del Potro now moves on to Miami which arguably provides him more support from the crowd than any other venue outside of Argentina.
“I’m No. 6 in the world, I think? Which is so good to me. And I’m excited to keep working,” del Potro said. “I just want to keep winning titles like this if I can.”
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